Star Tribune editor sees future online

Star Tribune editor Nancy Barnes said she could picture the future of the paper as a digital-first weekly with a print Sunday edition.

In her interview with the American Society of News Editors, which was appropriately held via Twitter, Barnes said the paper still had very strong daily content, and the decision to go digital would take at least five years.

Still, this is a decision many papers are facing, particularly now that the cost of an online operation is so low, and newspapers are slowly figuring out ways to rely less on advertising dollars.

For example, Barnes said that in order to entice readers online, the Star Tribune published six to 12 stories strictly online.

“We hold out from six to 12 big stories and it has helped drive some subscriptions. Paying subscribers have been very supportive. Some initial push-back from online readers but that has faded,” she said.

Barnes’ paper takes a strategy similar to that of the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal when it comes to its online content.

“The strategy is to raise more revenue from consumers wherever they are reading us, print, web, mobile, tablet. etc,” she said. “Decrease reliance on print advertising. We’ll have a suite of mobile products for subscribers when pay wall goes in.”

The questions then are: Will readers buy this content? Is it enough to sustain an industry? How many more papers will switch to a digital first format? If they do, when?

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